In yet another questionable tragedy at the Dallas Zoo, a female lion was killed by two male lions on Sunday, in full view of spectators. One of the two male lions, named Denari and Kamaia, bit the female, named Johari, around her neck until she stopped moving.
Zoo officials called the killing "quick," but attendees told NBC that it went on for 10 to 15 minutes until the female lion became lifeless. Immediately after the killing, zoo staffers shut down the exhibit and professed ignorance as to why the killing occurred.
"I've been in the zoo business for over 35 years," Dallas Zoo vice president Lynn Kramer told NBC. "I've worked at five major zoos, and I've never seen a cat kill another cat before."
Given all that expertise, it seems surprising that Kramer would be unaware of a nearly identical lion killing one month ago at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, when a 6-year-old female lion named Jamila died at the hands of a male lion named Abuto, who'd been introduced for the purposes of breeding.
Johari was one of three sisters, along with Josiri and Lina. Denari and Kamaia are brothers. The five lions were thrown together in 2010 without parental guidance to become part of the zoo's Giants of the Savanna exhibit.
Just before the attack, Denari and Kamaia were trotted through their daily "demonstration" for visitors on Sunday at 10 am. After the attack, the male lions were placed in their "individual rooms" and fed. Zoo officials said they would not be put down, which would imply that they considered this behavior to be natural or acceptable.
Patrick the banished gorilla
Johari isn't the only recent dark stain for the zoo. In late September, they announced their decision to boot Patrick, longtime resident gorilla, for being "anti-social," i.e. not breeding with the females. Sorry Patrick, but the zoo needed to make space for males that would breed. He's being replaced by two sad gorillas from the Calgary Zoo, including one "break-dancing" gorilla named Zola.
Thus, after having lived at the Dallas Zoo for 18 of his 23 years, Patrick got shipped to a zoo in North Carolina.
Patrick was born at the Bronx Zoo in 1990 and rejected by his mother. He was transferred to the Toronto Zoo, then the Dallas Zoo when he was 5. The only bond he made was with Jabari, the gorilla who was shot to death by Dallas police after he escaped from the zoo in 2004.
Some cracked jokes by calling Patrick "mean" and "sexist." Guess that's because he was raised by humans. Laurie Holloway, a spokeswoman for the Dallas Zoo, had the gall to say that Patrick's banishment was best for the zoo "and for Patrick."
Cheetah cubs without mom
In September, the Dallas Zoo imported two cheetahs, Winspear and Kamau, who were born in July at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. The announcement was accompanied by much coo-ing over their unusual pairing-up with a black Labrador puppy, which the zoo said would "calm down" the 8-week-old cubs.
Why not leave them with their mother? After all, in nature, cheetah cubs stay with their mothers for 18 to 24 months. The zoo had a self-serving excuse.
"Cub mortality is high in cheetahs, and having us take Kamau and Winspear will help all three of them," it said in a statement. "We are hand-raising the cubs so they become adjusted to people enough to visit schools, hospitals and other public places to teach about conservation."
When they're not meeting-and-greeting fifth graders, the cheetahs will otherwise make "brief appearances several times a day" on the Wild Encounters Stage near the Wilds of Africa monorail entrance.
"Big cats are meant to roam hundreds of miles," says Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue, a Florida sanctuary. "And if we want to teach our children about conservation, then it should be to show them in their natural habitat via webcams or documentaries.
"Showing our children big cats in a cage, no matter how nicely it may be decorated for our visual appreciation, is teaching them that we can and should dominate wild animals for our own pleasure. That has led us to where we are today: a world where lions and tigers may not even exist in the next generation in the wild."
As for the cheetahs' Labrador puppy companion, Amani, the zoo had this to say:
Amani won’t ever be in danger, for several reasons. First, they’ll grow up together, so they’ll be bonded to each other and will see each other as family. Second, he’ll be big enough to hold his own. Thirdly, our animal care staff has a great deal of experience with animal behavior and training and would be able to address any problems before they develop.
Too bad all that great deal of experience in animal behavior and training wasn't able to save Johari the lion. For now, Denari and Kamaia will not be doing demonstrations, nor hang out in the same area as Johari's sisters, Josiri and Lina.